Friday, October 08, 2010

TBS Baseball Playoff Announcers Make Me Long for Mets’ Team
By Nicholas Stix

12:25 a.m., Friday October 8, 2010
Nicholas Stix, Uncensored

I turned on tonight’s Yankees-Twins’ playoff Game II in the bottom of the seventh inning, in Minneapolis. A three-man announcing team was working the game in the booth, including Ron Darling, from the Mets’ announcing team. (His Mets’ partners are Gary Cohen and Keith Hernandez).

I’ve seen Darling work AL playoff games before, so I know the drill. He muzzles most of his great insights, as well his sense of humor. Apparently, conspicuous displays of intelligence make the suits nervous.

Darling’s announcing booth partners must be a comfort to their bosses. During that one half an inning, I heard enough to remind me why I hate watching national baseball broadcasts.

Speaking of Yankees’ starter Andy Pettitte’s excellent performance, an announcer says, “I’m sure he’s got some self-gratification.”

I guess he was trying to sound smart.

It’s great to be funny … when you’re trying to be funny.

And then, “He’s done a nice job commanding the plate and the zone.”

Various forms of “command” have been popular in recent years, ever since someone got the bright idea that saying that a pitcher has or lacks “command” is cooler and says more than its predecessor, “control.” It isn’t. Regarding pitchers, “command” is a synonym for “control.” Period.

I once heard an announcer claim that the two words differ, in that “command” includes a pitcher throwing balls out of the strike zone, when he wants to. But “control” always included that meaning.

While “the plate” and “the zone” aren’t automatically synonyms—you could throw a ball over the plate but out of the strike zone—they usually are. So, the phrase “the plate and the zone” needs to be sent back to the Department of Redundancy Department.

The broadcast, or at least the two innings and change I watched, wasn’t a complete waste. I got to see an exciting part of an American League game pitting two excellent teams, with the subplots that make such series fascinating, and at times, poignant. For instance, I got to see the aging Derek Jeter come within a quarter-of-a-step of legging out an infield hit. The Captain may be struggling, but there’s no quit in him.

And while 40-year-old Mariano Rivera, the greatest closer ever, has had his doubters this year, as he has for six years running, he again got the job done brilliantly during the season, and shut the Twins down in the ninth tonight, with only a lead-off, inside-out, dink single to left for Joe Mauer. Thus did Rivera preserve the 5-2 victory, giving the Bombers a 2-0 series lead, heading back to the Bronx.

In the Silver Linings Department, there are a couple of positives to mention about the TBS team, particularly Ernie Johnson, its main announcer and primary offender against the English language.

In the top of the ninth, when the Yanks’ Curtis Granderson gave the Bombers an insurance run with a shallow, pop fly single to center, scoring Brett Myers from third, I was gratified to hear Johnson say, “The New York lead is now three.”

And in the bottom half of the frame, Johnson said, “The Twins needing base runners here, trailing by three in the ninth.”

As simple as the matter is, announcers almost always get it wrong, and say that a team is trailing or leading by the score, instead of the difference. So, when Granderson’s single made the score 5-2, Yanks, 90 percent of announcers, including the Mets’ otherwise excellent team, would have said, “The New York lead is now 5-2.” No, the score is 5-2; the lead is three.

I long ago concluded that the idiots who train announcers inculcate this incorrect usage.

In a related vein, I was pleased to see reporter Bob Sager, during a postgame interview with (recently acquired) Yankees player, Lance Berkman, recount a situation with “a man on first base.”

What’s the big deal, you ask? When I was a kid, it was always “a man on first.” We heard all the time of men playing the summer game. Conversely, in recent years, baseball announcers—at least the white ones—have clearly been trained to remove the man from the game. We hear of “people” and “persons,” we hear of “runners,” but we almost never hear of “men,” unless either the speaker is black or Hispanic, or is referring to a black or Hispanic player.

Well, I’ll watch some of these postseason games, but I won’t have my heart in it, not until my Mets make it back, which at this rate might be never, or might be with a motley assortment of characters so hostile to the team’s white fan base that by then, I might no longer care.

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Thursday, October 07, 2010

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